“For I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-53, NIV).
Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul conducted his second missionary journey and traveled through Macedonia (modern-day Greece). Due to some troubles caused by some of the citizens of Thessalonica, Paul was forced to escape from the city under the cover of night.
Paul moved on to Athens and then Corinth where he remained for about a year and a half. While at Corinth and possibly due to his abbreviated visit to Thessalonica, Paul wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica. Paul departed Corinth after a year and a half and went to Jerusalem, then later traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for three years conducting his apostolic ministry (c. AD 53-55). It is believed that while Paul was residing in Ephesus that he wrote 1 Corinthians.
In the first Thessalonian letter Paul addressed the state of the Christian dead. The dead in Christ are not forgotten by God when they die but both the the dead in Christ and those who are alive when Christ returns will be caught up in the air–or raptured–at Christ’s coming. In the second letter Paul assured the Thessalonians that the rapture could not have occurred because certain apocalyptic events including the revealing of the antichrist must take place.
Paul declares a similar message to the Corinthians but with some additional nuances.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul frames the Rapture in the context of Resurrection. Christians can be assured that when they die they will be resurrected because Christ died and was resurrected. God became a human being; he lived a human life and died a human death. Then, He was resurrected to eternal life: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (vs 20).
So, Paul told the Corinthians like he told the Thessalonians that at the coming of Christ the dead and the alive Christians are resurrected: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (vs 21-23).
Paul goes on to explain what a resurrected being is like. The Resurrected are not biological beings nor disembodied spirits. “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (vs 15:35, NIV). Paul says human biological beings do not inherit the Kingdom of God. Neither are they ghosts!
Rather, resurrected beings are changed, metamorphosed, transmogrified into a new kind of being! They are “spiritual bodies”–somehow simultaneously biological and spiritual. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (vs. 44). And, they are immortal! “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (vs. 53).
Finally, the mystery of the Rapture is revealed. While human beings typically go through death to be resurrected, not all who belong to Christ will be dead at His Coming; some will still be alive. So, Rapture occurs in conjunction with Resurrection because some who belong to Christ are still alive at His coming. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet”
With Rapture/Resurrection both the alive in Christ and the dead in Christ are concurrently changed into resurrected beings who will live forever in God’s Eternal Kingdom.
Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. (2 Corinthians 4:14, NIV)